I’m a science writer who’s worked at research universities including Caltech, MIT, Cornell, Duke, and the University of Wisconsin. I’ve written nonfiction books about the importance of fathering (Father Power, 1975), the search for the Loch Ness monster (Search at Loch Ness, 1977), and how scientists can communicate their work (Explaining Research, 2010). I’m now writing speculative fiction novels, including The Rainbow Virus, Wormholes, Solomon’s Freedom, and my latest, The Cerulean's Secret.
AW: What genera do you write and why?
I write what I call speculative fiction, but what has also been called science thrillers. That is, my novels draw on real science, both current and future, to tell stories that make people think about the impact of science and technology.
AW: Tell us about your book….
The Cerulean's Secret is set in the year 2050, when a very lucrative industry has developed to create and sell exotic genetically engineered pets—including crosses like cogs, dats, snurtles, alliphants, hamakeets, and feather boas. Its ultra-rich clients, however, clamor for the really spectacular specimens—dragons, unicorns. . . and now the Cerulean. The stunning cat had promised to bring billions of dollars from a corporation, private collector or exhibitor.
But somebody steals the cat, and swept up in the mystery is naïve young Timothy Boatright, a wanna-be writer who's driving a cab in New York. He inadvertently picks up the thief and the nabbed Cerulean. The cops suspect him of complicity in the crime, and to prove his innocence and save the cat, he tracks it down and steals it back. He realizes that the Cerulean was stolen and marked for death because its genes hold some explosive mystery he must solve to survive. He must also save his friends held for ransom—the middle-aged, cat-loving former spy Callie Lawrence and her headstrong daughter Lulu, with whom Tim has fallen madly in love.
AW: What was your inspiration for this book?
The Cerulean's Secret, had its origins thirty years ago, when an oddball question popped into my head: What if there were a blue cat? I suspect that notion arose because, at the time, as head of the Caltech news bureau, I was witnessing the beginning of the genomic engineering revolution. Caltech biologists were building the first “gene machines” to sequence and construct DNA and protein molecules. I believed that these machines would ultimately spawn an extraordinary technology for manipulating life. As the technology evolved, so did the story of my imaginary blue cat. I began crafting the novel some two decades ago, as genomic science fiction became science fact. And as I wrote it over the years, many of the devices I envisioned for 2050—from robot snakes, to virtual-reality glasses, to quantum computers—began showing up as real-life technology. And, although I wanted to tell an exciting story, I also wanted to explore the critical moral and ethical issues raised by our growing ability to genetically engineer life.
AW: Do you have a favorite character and why that one?
I really like them all, but differently, just like you like all your friends for their different qualities. In The Cerulean's Secret, I like Tim Boatright for his unerring optimism and determination; Lulu Lawrence for her wit and feistiness; and Callie Lawrence for her loyalty to her friends and loved ones, and utter courage.
AW: What project(s) are you currently working on?
My next novel is The Happy Chip [www.TheHappyChip.com], about a company called NeoHappy, Inc., which markets a sophisticated nanoelectronic chip that, when implanted, enables people to monitor the hormones that measure their own happiness with the people and products in their lives. At first, millions of people find the Happy Chip a pathway to more pleasurable choices. But the company begins to disseminate control chips that manipulate people’s emotions, and can even assassinate them by remote control.
The protagonist is science writer Andy Davis, who is hired to co-author the biography of the company’s genius founder, Marty Fallon. What starts out as a dream assignment for him transforms into a nightmare that threatens to subjugate not just Andy and his family, but the world.
AW: Do you have any interesting writing quirks you want to tell us about?
I guess my most unusual writing "quirk"is where I write. My wife and I live in a log cabin deep in the North Carolina mountains, a mile from the nearest neighbor. We live in the middle of nature, encountering deer, raccoons, hummingbirds, and even an occasional bear. It’s a great place to write, without the intrusion of the distractions of civilization.
AW: Do you have any advice for writers out there?
Write for the love of writing. And keep writing and trying to improve your writing, no matter what. And play the long game. That is, don’t assume that your first book will make your reputation, or even the fifth. You might have to write a dozen books to establish your brand, and even then you might not make it big. But if you write books that you are proud of, and that your readers enjoy—no matter how small the audience—you’ve fulfilled yourself as a writer. Finally, explore both traditional and self-publishing, and learn marketing skills. You’ll need them regardless of how your works are produced.
AW: Where can we find you? (facebook, twitter, blog, website, etc)
AW: And of course we have to know, where can we find your book?
The Cerulean's Secret: www.CeruleansSecret.com